What exactly is workplace culture? The definitions vary greatly depending on who you ask.
This Harvard Business Review piece entitled, How Company Culture Shapes Employee Motivation, defines culture as "the set of processes in an organization that affects the total motivation of its people". The authors, Lindsay McGregor and Neil Doshi, ask three questions to demystify this nebulous phenomenon:
1) How does culture drive performance?
2) What is culture worth?
3) What processes in an organization affect culture?
And according to Robert Richman, author of The Culture Blueprint, culture is designed by who you hire and by establishing what behaviors are allowed. It exists in language, and whoever has a repeatable protocol of language can institutionalize it and scale the culture.
I believe that workplace culture is the foundation upon which great companies are built. It all begins with developing a strong company purpose and the values that guide your people towards fulfilling that purpose. Of course, that's not just what you write on the wall. Culture lives and breathes through the words and actions of your employees.
All of the questions below are excerpts from The Great eBook of Employee Questions, which contains 70 questions and detailed explanations of why you should ask them. We cover topics ranging from productivity-hacks, managing introverts, and of course culture-building:
What would an even more joyful workplace culture look like to you?
- Of your accomplishments this week, which one are you most proud of and why?
Taking pride in one's work used to be far more ubiquitous than it is today. A faster paced world means that we often optimize for quantity over quality. This question reminds employees of that great feeling of pride in a job well done.
The concept of joy at work may seem foreign to some, especially those who constantly glorify "busy". But joy can and should go hand-in-hand with quality, focused productivity.
What is one quality you see in a team member that you'd like to cultivate in your own habits and actions?
This question provides management with insights into desired qualities of employees who may be undercover heroes. It also creates more team awareness and connection.
How can I be a better leader?
This one will probably be the toughest on your team, but the responses will also be incredibly worthwhile. You will learn what your employees perceive are core leadership values, and determine if they are in sync with the values of management and the company as a whole.
Wouldn't it be amazing if...
We created a
Dare to Dream
board and collected some of our biggest, wildest and bold dreams about what we can accomplish as a company and put them up on a white board for all to see. Try it on your team!
How are you impacting the people around you?
Why is it that the people with the least self-awareness are usually the most difficult to be around? This question invites people to be aware of their co-workers' reactions and perceptions, and ponder how they're being experienced by others.
What opportunities for learning and growth have you recently found or created for yourself? What such opportunities do you see for your colleagues?
Co-workers engage with one another during lunches and happy-hours, and sometimes those conversations are about life-goals and learning experiences. Help out a colleague by shining a light on something they want for their personal and professional development.
If you could choose a colleague, team member, or exemplary professional to coach you on a particular topic, who would it be and why?
Have you ever reached out to someone in your field and offered to take them to lunch for some advice? That hour could be the most valuable time you spend away from your desk. Workplace cultures that support growth on this level encourage loyalty in their employees.
What would you change about our product if you had a magic wand?
Let people know that their innovative ideas are valued. We don't always have to know how we can make things happen. Who knows, maybe someone else on the team can work their magic and pull that rabbit out of the hat.
Which company value would you like to have a new high mark in? (as in, which do you feel you aren't living to its potential?)
Company values are the compass by which autonomous employees steer, and this question keeps the values top of mind. Some of our values are
Keep Things Simple
Commit to Customer Success and Delight
. So when any employees face a decision they can ask, "Am I over-complicating this? How would this impact our customers?"
However you define culture, one thing is certain - you can be intentional about creating it, or you can let it create itself. For example, the company may declare transparency as a value. But if you don't foster open dialogue, will people choose candid communication over gossip?
One way to assess how aligned employees are with the culture, is to measure the difference between the values you created and what people truly value. How and why people interact with each other is your culture, no matter what else you think it might be.
For an additional 60 questions, including 10 "Genius Questions" that thought leaders ask their teams, download The Great eBook of Employee Questions.
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